New Blood Test Shows Promise in Colorectal Cancer Clinical Trial–But Is it Enough?

Posted By Author on July 10, 2024

Colorectal cancer has always been believed to be a greater concern for the older generation, but the recent increase in diagnoses in people under 55 is causing people to think twice about screening ages and early detection. 

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women combined. Despite the death rate dropping in older adults over the past few decades, the rate has been slowly increasing for those under 55 years old. 

Undergoing a colonoscopy is the current gold standard for colorectal cancer screening and early detection, but a recent clinical trial has welcomed a new competitor in the ring: Blood tests. 

Will a blood test replace a colonoscopy as the gold standard for early detection and prevention of colon cancer? Keep reading to find out what our GI doctors in Charleston, SC have to say! 

Will a Blood Test Replace a Colonoscopy as the Gold Standard for Colorectal Cancer? Unlikely

A new study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, WA found a blood test could detect colorectal cancer with 83% accuracy. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the results of the SHIELD blood test included nearly 8,000 people between the ages of 45 and 84. 

In an article by Melissa Rudy of Fox News, she stated, “Among participants who had colorectal cancer cases confirmed by colonoscopy, 83% tested positive through the blood test and 16.9% had a negative test.” 

If the FDA approves the blood test, it would be another means of detecting colorectal cancer at an early stage.

The blood test was found to perform best at detecting colorectal cancer, but less effective at finding precancerous lesions, known as polyps. 

Dr. Barbara Jung, president of the American Gastroenterological Association, says the test is another tool for early detection. It’s not meant to act as a replacement for the current gold standard of colon cancer screening – a colonoscopy.

“If the test is positive, the next step will be a colonoscopy. And when you find those [polyps], you can also remove them, which in turn prevents the cancer from forming,” Jung stated in her interview with NPR. 

Guardant Health, the pharmaceutical company responsible for the blood test, has filed for approval with the FDA. A decision is expected to come later this year. 

Stay up to date on this new test for colorectal cancer screening, only at Charleston GI! 

The Rise of Colorectal Cancer in Young Adults

Not only is it one of the most common types of cancer, colorectal cancer is also one of the leaders of the pack in cancer-related deaths. More than 50,000 people die each year from colorectal cancer, topping the charts as the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and fourth-leading cause in women. 

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is projected to claim the lives of over 53,000 people this year. 

Colorectal cancer is largely preventable, with many available options for screening tests. Unfortunately, about 40-50% of people who should be receiving screenings are not doing so, increasing the potential to develop colorectal cancer at a more developed stage. 

Over the years, colorectal cancer has seen a shift from the older generation to those at a younger age. Since the mid-1990s, cases among people under 50 years old have increased by about 50%, making it one of the deadliest cancers in this age range. 

Those with an average risk of developing colorectal cancer are recommended to schedule their first colonoscopy with a Charleston gastroenterology specialist as early as 45 years old. 

Talk to a GI doctor near you to discuss your risk of colorectal cancer, and when to schedule your first colonoscopy appointment. 

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer and Screening Tests

Colorectal cancer can often go unseen, with symptoms not always appearing right away. Common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer can include: 

  • Change in bowel habits 
  • Feelings of needing to have a bowel movement but not relieved by having one 
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain or cramping 
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue 
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Colorectal cancer can cause one or more of the above symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. 

Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests 

During your visit to the gastroenterologist, your doctor will ask questions regarding your medical history to learn about potential risk factors. You will also be asked about your current symptoms, followed by a physical exam. 

There are different types of screening tests to diagnose colorectal cancer. They include: 

  • Stool Tests: There are a variety of stool tests under this category. Each fecal test uses chemicals to detect blood in the stool, while the FIT-DNA test detects altered DNA in the stool. 
  • Blood tests: This test measures different types of cells in your blood. They can suggest that someone may have colorectal cancer but can’t be used to catch precancerous polyps. The new SHIELD blood test has had the highest accuracy thus far and is currently awaiting FDA approval. 
  • Colonoscopy: This is considered the benchmark for colorectal cancer screening, and for good reason! Your GI doctor will insert a colonoscope through the anus to detect and test for cancerous polyps. This has become the crucial means of diagnosing colorectal cancer and catching it in its early stages. 

The Gold Standard is a Life without Limits–Schedule a Colonoscopy Near You Today!

As new tools and means of screening for colorectal cancer are introduced, none can replace the certainty and importance of a colonoscopy. Don’t become part of the statistics and schedule your colorectal cancer screening today! 

Our gastroenterologists near you are equipped with the knowledge and techniques to make your first colonoscopy appointment a breeze. 

Stay up to date on the new approval of the new blood test with Charleston GI and schedule an appointment today, no referral needed! 

We have four convenient Charleston area locations to choose from, West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads.